Category Archives: Housing

First-Time Homebuyers: 6 Tips to Save for the House of Your Dreams

According to a 2015 BMO Harris report, 52 percent of Americans plan to buy a home in the next five years.  Saving for a down payment, typically between 5 to 20 percent of the home’s value, is one of the biggest challenges for those aspiring homebuyers. The American Bankers Association Foundation is highlighting six tips to help consumers cut costs and start saving.

“A down payment is often the largest single payment a consumer makes in their lifetime and saving for it isn’t easy,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “However, with a few changes, consumers can put themselves on track to make their homeownership dream a reality.”

The ABA Foundation offers prospective homebuyers these saving strategies:

Develop a budget & timeline. Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month – that will help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a separate savings account. Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash. If you received a tax refund, consider putting all or a portion into this account.

Shop around to reduce major monthly expenses. It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renter’s insurance, health insurance, cable, internet or cell phone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor your spending. With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (e.g. nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Celebrate savings milestones. Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This will help you stay motivated throughout the process.

Look into state and local home-buying programs. Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants. Stock Yard’s Mortgage Banking Group can help you determine what types of offers are available in your area.

Information provided by the American Bankers Association.

9 Tips to Green Your Home and Save Money

1. Location, location, location efficiency. Carefully consider the location of your home. If you’re close to work, shopping and entertainment, you may not need a car. Without a car you would save money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, not to mention reduce pollution. If you’re thinking about moving further out, try to find something near public transportation and shopping.

2. Light up the house, not the electric bill. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs will save you about $6 a year in electricity costs per bulb and more than $40 over its lifetime. According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Remember to recycle used CFL bulbs. Go to http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling for recycling locations.

3. Some like it hot, hot, hot…or cold, cold, cold. Closely monitor your thermostat. Adjusting it just a few degrees while you’re out can save energy and money. You can make it easier by installing a programmable thermostat. Use fans and close the blinds during the warm months and let the sun in for natural warmth in the winter. Also, change your filter every three months.

4. Make it mean-green-clean. Cleaning supplies can be expensive and are made with toxic chemicals. You can save money and the environment by making your own cleaning supplies. All you need are some basic household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax to clean everything from windows to tile.

5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Sticking to this mantra can help you save money around the house. Use a rag instead of paper towels. Buy products in bulk, concentrate or refillable containers to reduce packaging waste. Look for products made from recycled content. And don’t forget to recycle!

6. Win-dos for your windows. There are a number of ways you can make your windows more energy efficient without replacing them. For better insulation from the weather you can caulk exterior joints, put shrink wrap on them or hang blackout curtains.

7. Fan the green flames. To keep your refrigerator running efficiently, keep the fan clean. The motor won’t have to work as hard if the fan is clear of debris.

8. Decorate green. Houseplants are like living air-filters. English Ivy, rubber trees, peace lilies and red-edged dracaena can help clean the air and look pretty too.

9. Vampire energy is sucking you dry. On or off, anything plugged into the wall sucks energy. Vampire power costs U.S. consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unplug your electronics and appliances when they’re not in use.

Resource information provided by American Banker’s Association. For more green home solutions, visit: epa.gov/greenhomes